Review: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

This movie really surprised me.  With an outlandish and absurd story premise, I expected to not like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  However, with an earnest approach by the filmmakers and the cast, how can one not like this film and enjoy the silly, crazy fun that it has to offer?  As ridiculous as this movie could have been, writer Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the book on which this film is based, and director Timur Beckmambetov manage to make it work and imaginatively tie the story elements to historical events quite skillfully.  I’m sure that not everyone, particularly history purists, will enjoy the type of entertainment that it has to offer, but those who enjoy unusual and highly creative stories of a wild variety or curiosity pieces might just have a blast with this one.

 Before Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) became the sixteenth president of the United States, he sought revenge for the death of a family member at the hands of a vampire slave owner named Jack Barts (Martin Csokas).  Henry Sturgess (Dominick Cooper) takes Lincoln under his wing and trains him in the art of vampire hunting.  Abe agrees to accept killing assignments from Strugess if it will give him the opportunity to find and destroy Barts.  The underworld of vampires is much larger than Lincoln anticipates and as he begins to abandon hunting for a career in politics, these demons from his past eventually catch up with him and threaten the nation during the Civil War.

 The whole idea behind this highly entertaining piece, obviously a tale of a most tall order, works nicely, because Seth Grahame-Smith and director Timur Becmambetov treat the material seriously and straight faced.  Not once do they treat it like parody.  That could have very easily occurred considering the material.  I have not actually read the novel, on which the film is based, but my guest at the screening, who has, thought that the filmmakers adapted the material well.  I guess it really helps that Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay.  Now, that is not to say that there were some silly, slightly stupid, laughable moments, but considering that entire picture could taken this route I actually enjoyed the story and characters.  Grahame-Smith does a fine job tying his brilliantly creative ideas with actual events and people in Lincoln’s life and history.

 Now visually, the film left some to be desired.  The budget constraints appeared through the heavy use of cheap CGI used in several of the scenes, especially some of the more exciting action sequences.  One particularly CGI-heavy scene involving a horse chase frustrated me a tad.  I wish that the producers had secured a better budget, because I have seen better effects in television shows.  Timur Becambetov doesn’t particularly bring a fresh style to the action, either.  His use of slow-motion felt like a mix of Zack Snyder and Guy Ritchie with a dash of the Wachowski Brothers.  It would have been nice had Becambetov had brought an original look and feel to the film.

 As the filmmakers took a straight faced, earnest approach, so did the cast who all deliver fine performances.  Benjamin Walker, who could easily play a young Liam Neeson, does a fine job as Lincoln and has a lovely charm and charisma which I found endearing.  Dominic Cooper, whom I’ve yet to see perform poorly, makes a wonderful addition to the cast as Lincoln’s mentor and friend Henry Sturgess.  The beautiful and talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead also stars as Abraham’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln and offers a highly lovable performance.  As Adam, Jack Barts, Vadoma, the main villains of the story, Rufus Sewell, Martin Csokas, and Erin Wasson all bring a welcome delicious wickedness to their roles.  Rufus Sewell particularly stands out and seems to portray his character with gleeful zeal.   Finally, Anthony Mackie stars as former slave andLincoln’s best friend Will Johnson.  He doesn’t bring anything really dynamic to this character, but does fit in comfortably and shares a nice chemistry with Walker and the rest of the cast.

 Because this type of movie will not appeal to everyone’s tastes, I can only recommend it to people who enjoy films within the horror/action genre.  The story feels like a modern day horror grindhouse piece, but one that actually has solid writing.  When I say grindhouse, I mean of the genuine variety and not of the self-aware parody type.  I had a lot of fun watching this tale and do recommend that fans of this genre go see it in the theater.  Once again, the 3D adds little to the experience and really is not necessary. It should make for a fun time at the theater on a late Saturday night with a group of friends.

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